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Oklahoma's Brittany Williams: Diary of a champion

Canyon grad recalls what led to a recent NCAA title

Posted: June 21, 2013 10:44 p.m.
Updated: June 21, 2013 10:44 p.m.

University of Oklahoma softball player and former Canyon Cowboy Brittany Williams can remember being overshadowed when she played in high school. Now, she's part of an NCAA championship.

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In the first game of the NCAA Division I Women’s College World Series, Canyon High graduate Brittany Williams could only sit and watch from the dugout as a familiar face stuck a dagger into the hearts of her Oklahoma Sooners.

Valencia graduate Madison Shipman had just hit a three-run home run in the top of the 11th to put Williams and the Oklahoma Sooners down 3-0 to Shipman’s Tennessee Volunteers.

“(Madison’s) a great hitter,” Williams said of her former Foothill League rival. “She did really well that game. When she hit the home run, I was like ‘That was a good hit.’ But we didn’t panic. We knew we could hit the ball; we knew we could score runs.”

And they did.

Williams knocked in the first run in the bottom of the 11th with double to center, and the Sooners went on to win the game 5-3 in 12 innings, before winning the national championship the next night.

“Throughout my whole life, every college athlete dreams of winning a national championship,” she says. “I got to experience it and it’s just great. I can’t explain it. I’m still so pumped about it — I can’t even explain it. Nothing can compare.”

The fact that the title came alongside former Foothill League rival Jessica Shults — Oklahoma’s catcher — and over Hart graduate Melissa Brown and Shipman, only made it sweeter.

After the game, Williams stood next to the three girls who had overshadowed her for four years of high school and took a picture — finally on top.

“I know she’s going to relish and cherish this for the rest of her life,” said Canyon head coach Dwain Whalen, who coached Williams for four years of high school. “We’ve always struggled to get where we’ve got to go and I’m extremely ecstatic for her that she finally got her championship that she deserves.”

The 2012-2013 season was the most successful in Williams’ three years at Oklahoma, both as a team and personally.

The Oklahoma junior hit .331 with seven home runs and 40 RBIs and had a perfect fielding percentage in the outfield.

Her .453 on-base percentage was seventh best in school history and her 106 walks were eighth best.

“My confidence this year was way different from last year,” she says. “My confidence was really high. My expectations were high and my plan every time going up to bat was getting on base.”

When Williams was at Canyon High School, though, championships weren’t really in the cards.

At the time, Valencia and Hart were the cream of the Foothill League crop, even playing each other for the CIF-Southern Section Division I title in 2007, Williams’ sophomore season.

“One of my goals for going to Canyon was to have fun and relax and I liked being the underdog in that situation,” Williams says of her time as a Cowboy. “It’s fun to be the underdog.”

Williams isn’t watching her league rivals compete for championships anymore, though.

Now, she’s joining them.

And in the process, sending a message that success can come from any school in the Santa Clarita Valley.

While at Canyon she was a three-time All-Foothill League selection and three-time All-Santa Clarita Valley first-team selection.

As a junior, she led the Foothill League in batting average (.472), RBIs (29), home runs (11), slugging percentage (1.125) and on-base percentage (.591).

Now, she’s a national champion — and that’s a message she’s happy to share with Canyon’s current crop of players.

“Everyone has a place to go for college and if you want to play at the college level you have to work hard and do everything you can,” Williams says. “When (former Canyon players in college) go back ... I think (the current players) get excited, because if (we) can go there (they) can go.”

For Whalen, that’s a message he’s happy to have his former players share.

“It gives me a sense of pride to know she came from Canyon and I was able to be part of her life and softball life,” he says. “The way I look at it, I’m finally glad she got her championship.”

With one more year remaining for Williams, it’ll be tough to top what she accomplished this season.

For now, though, the memory of a national championship will have to do.

“I still get chills when I think about it. I was in the outfield. (Pitcher Michelle Gascoigne) was throwing a great game. Honestly, it was a late strike,” she says of the championship-winning strikeout. “We had no idea what was going on and the umpire called strike three and I started jumping up and down. I threw my glove and started running toward the dogpile and jumped on it. One of the greatest moments of my life with this team.”

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